Lille, France – Defending Ligue 1 champion Lille started slow this season, but with two straight victories and recent signing Joe Cole ready to make his debut this weekend, the club once again looks like a major threat.
Lille won its first Ligue 1 title since 1954 last season, and with a number of offseason additions to boost the squad, coach Rudi Garcia has the tools to get through domestic and European play.
Cole joined the French club on loan from Liverpool at the end of the transfer window, and the 56-time capped English international is looking forward to new life away from the Reds.
The 29-year-old midfielder turned out rarely for Liverpool and leaving England should give him a chance to reestablish himself on the club level and possibly with his national team.
Cole has only played the full 90 minutes once in the last nine months, and the period has "been a tough time for me in my career," he said. But he is looking forward to making a fresh start Saturday against St. Etienne.
"Things didn't work out at Liverpool but I can't be upset with the club," Cole said. "It was a complicated year."
Cole is confident that all he needs "is a run of five or 10 games and I'll be back to my best no problem."
Now it's up to Garcia to turn to the versatile midfielder or winger, who will provide a potent option for the French side.
"He's been asking me how I feel and I've done a full preseason," Cole said. "But to get to your best you need games."
Lille hosts CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday and a win at St. Etienne would provide a good boost for the club. If Cole does make his debut, and play well, that would also provide a boost.
"Saint-Etienne's a tough place, really hostile crowd," Cole admitted. "They're quite physical by all accounts, but I'm ready to go."
Second-place and undefeated Lyon visits Dijon on Saturday, when struggling Marseille will try for its first win at home against Rennes. Also Saturday, winless sides Ajaccio and Valenciennes play, Bordeaux hosts Evian, Caen hosts Toulouse, and Sochaux hosts Lorient.
On Sunday, surprise leader Montpellier vies for its fourth win against Nice at home, free-spending PSG looks for its third straight win against unbeaten, but also winless Brest, and winless Nancy hosts Auxerre.